Conducting Miller-Urey experiments

TitleConducting Miller-Urey experiments
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsParker E.T, Cleaves J.H, Burton A.S, Glavin D.P, Dworkin J.P, Zhou M.S, Bada JL, Fernandez F.M
JournalJove-Journal of Visualized Experiments
Date Published2015/01
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1940-087X
Accession NumberWOS:000348513500035
Keywordsamino acids; atmospheres; chemistry; Exobiology; Geosciences (General); irradiation; Issue 83; liquid-chromatography; Miller-Urey; organic-compounds; prebiotic chemistry; prebiotic synthesis; primitive earth; protein amino-acids; spark discharge; spark discharge experiment

In 1953, Stanley Miller reported the production of biomolecules from simple gaseous starting materials, using an apparatus constructed to simulate the primordial Earth's atmosphere-ocean system. Miller introduced 200 ml of water, 100 mmHg of H-2, 200 mmHg of CH4, and 200 mmHg of NH3 into the apparatus, then subjected this mixture, under reflux, to an electric discharge for a week, while the water was simultaneously heated. The purpose of this manuscript is to provide the reader with a general experimental protocol that can be used to conduct a Miller-Urey type spark discharge experiment, using a simplified 3 L reaction flask. Since the experiment involves exposing inflammable gases to a high voltage electric discharge, it is worth highlighting important steps that reduce the risk of explosion. The general procedures described in this work can be extrapolated to design and conduct a wide variety of electric discharge experiments simulating primitive planetary environments.

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